Pacers say they’ll welcome back Granger
by Robert Klemko, USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson was jazzed to play the New York Knicks – “very, very hype” – and he says he’ll be as excited to relinquish his starting role when Danny Granger gets back in the lineup.
Whenever that happens.
With an iffy knee, the small forward again didn’t suit up for the Pacers in a 125-91 victory vs. the New York Knicks (32-19). The All Star who hasn’t played all season missed his team’s most impressive offensive performance of the year as Indiana (33-21) took a 74-44 halftime lead behind 12 points from small forward Paul George and some emphatic dunks from the shooting guard, Stephenson.
“When we get Danny we’re going to be even better,” said Stephenson, who scored 14 in his 46th start this season. “He’s a great shooter and very aggressive. I think my role will be even bigger coming in with the second unit and keeping the pace up from what the starters were doing.”
With the emergence of George (27 points), the Pacers have been aces without Granger, perhaps fueling one writer’s suspicion that the team is open to trading him before the 3 p.m. ET Thursday deadline. But in a wonderful sign of the times, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard took to Twitter today to rebuke the writer.
In all likelihood, Granger will soon return, and will see limited minutes as coach Frank Vogel tinkers with a lineup which has allowed the lowest opponent field goal percentage in the NBA.
Is Vogel worried the transition will throw a wrench in a quest for the top seed in the East?
“It’s always a concern I guess,” he says. “But he’s a guy who is a team-first guy, who our guys know. There’s a not a familiarity that needs to be gained. It’s going to be a matter of his rhythm and timing, coming to play. We’ll manage his minutes accordingly until he’s sharp and ready to play regular minutes.”
As Stephenson noted, he would likely become the sixth man when Granger returns, with George moving from the three to the two-guard spot after making the All Star team at … [For more on Pacers say they'll welcome back Granger, click here.]